Costa Rican health officials are reporting a rare and tragic death of a nine-year-old boy due to being bitten by a rabies-infected squirrel, according to an Inside Costa Rica report Friday.

The report notes the details of the boy-squirrel encounter :

The child lived in the Osa area, and was bitten by the squirrel on May 5th.  Apparently the boy was eating a sweet, which the squirrel tried to take from the boy, biting him in the process.

The child was seen by a doctor after the appearance of symptoms of body pain and a high fever. The parents never mentioned the animal bite and rabies was never suspected. Medical personnel suspected dengue or chikungunya.


Public domain image/Jon Sullivan
Public domain image/Jon Sullivan

He was later admitted to the ICU and later tested for rabies; however, at that point it was too late. The report notes that this is the first such case since 2001.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin, as Costa Rican health officials said in a press conference on the case. For more infectious disease news and informationvisit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

Health officials advised the public to seek medical care immediately if you are bitten by a wild animal.